Concern for Garda vetting of carers

Children could still be placed with foster carers who should have been deregistered, according to a report into Tusla’s fostering services in Cork, which also highlighted other risks.

The inspection report by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) also raised concerns over a deficit in Garda vetting of foster carers in the area, with Hiqa escalating 10 cases that related to relative carers and/or adults living in the foster care home who had not had Garda vetting.

This latest inspection, a follow-up to a deeply critical inspection conducted last February, was conducted on August 30 and 31, when there were 442 foster care households in the area, including 320 general foster caters and 108 relative foster caters.

The service operates out of a fostering unit in the city and two outreach offices in Mallow and Skibbereen.

Since the last inspection, the foster care panel was updated but inspectors found that the status of some foster carers had not been updated where an investigation was ongoing.

“The principal social worker told inspectors that the placement officer was informed of any allegation made against a foster carer,” states the report.

“However, the placement officer was rotated on a monthly basis. As a result, the service could not be assured that this system would ensure that a child would not be placed with a foster family while an investigation was ongoing.”

Some improvements since February’s inspection were noted, including the development of a formal system for notifying the foster care committee of allegations against foster carers, with the principal social worker stating that they were in the process of notifying all previous allegations on the register due to the backlog of allegations to be submitted.

However, Hiqa said there is a lack of adequate safeguarding measures and oversight.

Since the last inspection in February, only two of the 73 carers have been assessed, and, of these, only one has been submitted to the foster care committee for approval.

There are still 42 carers on a waiting list for assessment. One child was placed with carers for 10 months without a safeguarding visit.

A tracker spreadsheet to identify foster carers who required updated Garda vetting did not include unassessed relative carers and persons over the age of 16 living in foster care households.

All four standards assessed were found to be majorly non-compliant. Hiqa again wrote to the chief operating officer of Tusla regarding the risks identified and requesting regular updates over the coming months.

Dermot Halpin, Tusla’s service director for the South, said there has been “incremental progress” since the previous inspection and additional staff have been recruited, alongside a range of other measures, although he admitted the work would take time.

He said assessments are under way for 51 of 73 unapproved relative foster carers as of this month, with the remainder having been allocated a Link Social Worker.

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